Salvadoran Journalist Claims He Was Deported in Spite of Valid Visa

Salvadoran journalist Romeo Molina, pictured with his mother María Concepción Molina. (Photo provided to El Diario)

“I don’t feel well, but it’s different when you’re free,” said journalist Romeo Molina to El Diario over the phone. He was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for almost 20 days and deported to El Salvador on Sunday.

Although he is still unclear about why he was arrested and deported – he says that he obtained a legitimate tourist visa at the U.S. embassy in San Salvador in 2017 – Molina is relieved that the “nightmare” that caused his health to deteriorate and made him incur unforeseen expenses is over.

The journalist traveled to Boston last year to receive an award for his humanitarian work collecting funds for seniors living in extreme poverty. On Saturday June 30, he was scheduled to appear at a cultural event to be held in New York, organized by Fundación Caricatura (Caricatura Foundation) and the Consulate General of El Salvador on Long Island.

Molina said that the immigration agent who detained him at JFK Airport accused him of obtaining his visa by fraudulent means because he lived in the city illegally between 2000 and 2009. Molina denies the accusation, saying that he waited as long as he was required to before applying for a new visa.

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The 51-year-old works for Salvadoran broadcasting group Megavisión. (…)

“They woke me up at midnight (on Sunday), took me to JFK and put me on an Avianca flight,” said Molina. Contrary to most people who are deported, he was given his passport and all his luggage back, including a batch of over 200 books written by him which he had planned to sell among New York’s Salvadoran community to fund a social assistance project led by his organization “Poetas por el Bien” (Poets for Good).

“In the van, they offered me food and medication. It is all very strange (…),” he said.

The journalist suffers from diabetes and has breathing problems, which became worse during the time he was held. Molina received medical attention on at least three occasions while detained.

El Diario reported previously on Molina’s situation in two stories. The first one was about the detention, and the second one included an interview from jail, in which he said:

“I just want to go back. I have a job back home, I have no intentions of staying here,” he said, adding that he was only saddened because he would not be able to fulfill his promise of aiding families in need, and would “go back empty-handed, like a criminal.”

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